Casual but classy

Designer inspired by Palm Springs

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

In a world infested by trendy fashions and low-rise pants, it's refreshing to see a designer who brings "class" to the forefront.

Designer Trina Turk, who started her line 10 years ago, had one goal when first designing her line - bring the look of the past to the present.

Her vision was to resurface memories of her childhood, where prints worn by her mother during the '60s left a strong impression on her. They were also styles that emitted a casual but classy look, similar to those once created by women like Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall.

It was known as California Chic and it was a look that defined simplicity with style.

"That look has come back to us, but no one is wearing the bold and graphic patterns that we see from that era," Turk said from San Francisco, where she was exhibiting her handbag collection for the 2005 Macy's Flower Show.

"People think they're dressed up but in a casual way," she continued to explain of her line. "And the style is American but West Coast. It's more casual and more sporty and because it's from California, there is sort of an underlying, creative west coast hippie sort of thing."

The California native began her career designing for companies that catered to a junior audience, such as designer label B.U.M. But Turk never wore the products she designed. Her only alternative, she believed, was to design her own line.

"I wanted to design something I'd wear, and I wanted to work with better fabrics and construction, so I had to move out of the junior market," she said.

She calls her style of design Contemporary, which has been seen on the likes of Halle Berry, Renee Zellweger and Kate Moss, and caters to women between the ages of 25 to 50. But age, she said, is all about attitude.

"You have to care about your figure in order to wear our line (sizes 0-12)," she said. "There is a range of looks in the collection so you can buy in a conservative or a younger way. It's really all about the person."

Her designs, the majority with large bold prints and colors, are inspired by Palm Springs and its surroundings, including the thrift stores.

"You can find amazing things that represent the era of Palm Springs in their thrift stores," she said of the shopping experience, something she's been doing for 20 years. "I guess a lot of people move and clean out their closets."

And it's no surprise that Turk has a rack of vintage clothing in her office, a detail that inspires her to create upcoming fashions.

"I have racks and racks of vintage clothing. It's a big library of clothing," she described of her 50s-looking office. "So at the beginning of each season, we pick out what we think is appropriate."

Turk knows her line suits the person who wants a classic style and not just something that will last more than six months. And as far as she's concerned, being trendy is not always the answer.

Do you stay away from trendy clothes?

Trends are a business. It's important to be aware of what's going on. And for a small company like mine, not owned by a fashion conglomerate, it's important you stick to a look. But if you chase looks, you loose your identity and that's what got you there in the first place. You have to do things you feel are right and have a point of view. If you forget about your personal taste, you might as well work for someone else.

Who is your favorite designer?

That's a hard question because it constantly changes. I think from current lines I like Lanvin and Chloe look beautiful, and Prada. I also older American. But I also think the ones who are overlooked are the real great designers that worked for movies, like Adrienne.

What fabrics do you work with?

We buy from all over the world, France, Italy and a lot of prints from Asia. We also have signature prints. We use from cotton to twill to a very complicated tweed that has silk and wool in it. We're definitely interested in texture now because you need that work in the prints and you need back solids so as not to have sensory overload.

What should today's woman own?

For this season, you need to have a really great white or ivory trouser and you need to have some type of short-cropped jacket where it has different fabrics. The idea of wearing something longer with a shorter jacket looks fresh. Also mix colors and patterns in a way you haven't done before. Anything other than black is happening, although black will be back in fall with a vengeance.

What's new in designs for Trina Turk?

We're doing a handbag event and they're relatively new. We launched sunglasses and next year we'll do swim wear and home accessories. It seems natural.

Where do you see your line going?

We have had a lot of fun with our own retail stores (also sold in department stores). But we're looking to expand in Palm Beach, Fla., Hawaii, and New York - New York is so important in our industry. It's the fashion capital of the world.